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Snakes and Ladders
Written by NormEmerges on Tuesday, 23rd Oct 2018 15:18

Well, after climbing a difficult ladder at Swansea, we managed to slide down an awaiting snake back to square one against QPR.

To end up rock bottom at this stage of the season is not a freak, it’s a reflection of how poor we have been in too many games.

So there have been flashes of brightness in our play, and arguably with a bit more luck we’d be four or five places higher, but that still means we would be a lower regions team. Sadly, Paul Hurst has dismantled a mid-table side and built a relegation candidate.

So why isn’t the team replicating the successful style of play Hurst had at Shrewsbury? Let’s look at some possible reasons.

Let’s start in goal. Hurst made a statement in dropping Bartosz Bialkowski in favour of Dean Gerken over a couple of slightly below par performances. Let’s hope he is consistent and demotes Gerken for the same reasons after another poor game – I do feel the defence is more secure with Bialkowski behind them.

Now for our troubled defence. Here surely Hurst’s puzzling selections play a part. Against QPR we had arguably our best centre-half [Matthew Pennington] playing at right-back, one of our best right-backs playing at left-back, and probably our best left-back [Jonas Knudsen] exactly that – left back on the bench.

Lo and behold, the defence looked nervous and lacked cohesion, and the full-backs contributed little to our attacking options. Should Toto Nsiala be undroppable, as seems to be the case, whilst Hurst likes making grand statements with Bialkowski and Knudsen? Please, Mr Hurst, be more sound in your team selection next time out.

Let’s move to midfield. Cole Skuse has been his usual ‘Marmite’ self – good at mopping up in front of the defence, less so moving forward. Trevoh Chalobah has been perhaps the pick of the midfield, but is too prone to blow hot or blow cold. But at least Andre Dozzell has at last been allowed to join the team and has looked the one most likely to pick defensive locks.

Meanwhile Jon Nolan has looked good in patches but on average looks just that – average. Jordan Graham and Tayo Edun have not looked like Championship players and Flynn Downes doesn’t yet look the player he did last year – or for that matter in pre-season friendlies.

In the frontline, neither Ellis Harrison nor Kayden Jackson look entirely Championship-ready, although both show some flashes of promise; indeed, the pick of the forwards so far has been Freddie Sears.

On the wings, Danny Rowe seems to have gone backwards, Jordan Roberts has done nothing much and Grant Ward has the distressing ability to look like a match-winner one week and anonymous the next.

Gwion Edwards does at least look a decent signing, and I think we were all encouraged by Jack Lankester’s debut. Perhaps Ben Folami will also feature on his return from Australia?

Now if you look at the team as a whole, there is no clear style nor sense of cohesion. This I don’t understand. Hurst has a reputation for well-drilled teams, with good dead ball routines. Where is that in the current side?

I’d have to say that one reason we don’t look good going forward is that we don’t have the springboard from defence. Those playing full-back recently aren’t wing-back material, and the likes of Nsiala and Luke Chambers aren’t ball playing centre-backs. We need full-backs who can break forward, and I’d rather see Pennington in central defence to play the ball out constructively.

Let’s look at Hurst’s record with signings and with up and coming youngsters.

He signed Edwards, Harrison, Jackson, Nolan, Nsiala and Roberts. Of these only Edwards looks like a long-term success. Add the loanees – Chalobah, Donacien, Edun, Graham, Pennington: Chalobah and Pennington look to have some class, but the others have disappointed. I can’t see any being more than bench material.

And our youngsters? Those up and coming under McCarthy, such as Myles Kenlock and Downes, seem out of favour. Then we have those loaned out, none of whom seemed too out of place when they appeared in the first team.

Luke Woolfenden has been doing well for Swindon, by all accounts, although he was on the bench at the weekend, Josh Emmanuel seems to be a success and a regular in the Shrewsbury team and Aaron Drinan seems to have broken into the Sutton United team and scored the winner in the FA Cup at the weekend.

However, Tristan Nydam at St Johnstone seems to spend his time as an unused substitute, Ben Morris hasn’t featured lately for Forest Green Rovers – don’t know if he’s injured or out of favour.

You do wonder if loaning the likes of Nydam out, supposedly to gain experience, is worth doing when he’d perhaps gain more experience on the fringes of our first team. Don’t forget either that Hurst wanted to send Dozzell out on loan too.

So where does this leave us? It seems to me we have a side with little Championship class in it, thanks to largely unsuccessful acquisitions over the summer, but still some promise in the younger players if Hurst is brave enough to play them. Let’s hope it is enough to stay up.

At least being back at square one, there are no snakes left to slide down, just ladders - if only we can climb one!

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Nthsuffolkblue added 15:48 - Oct 23
Did Hurst want to send Dozzell out on loan too?

NormEmerges added 08:01 - Oct 24
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